In my first article for Homefront United I covered the basic steps for transforming your health and fitness. This month I would like to expand on the one step that I feel is the most important and significant topic, nutrition.
Over the years I have met many people who exercise like crazy, you might even say they are obsessed with fitness. Some are in excellent shape, which you would expect from someone who puts forth such effort, but others are surprisingly not. People ask “how can she/he be out of shape exercising 7 days a week?” The answer is nutrition. It’s not a popular topic to many people, but if you want to get in shape, improve your health or lose weight safely, it is a necessary topic. Through my own transformation and change in my diet (not diet as in weight loss, diet as in my daily eating plan), I am happy to share with you that it wasn’t a horrible experience. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be and this is coming from a former Junk Food Junkie. Much to my surprise, my three children didn’t even mind switching to healthier options, making the benefits even greater for our family.
Just like a race car or fighter jet needs premium fuel to get maximum performance, your body needs the best “fuel” it can get to be healthy and fit. Everyone is different and each person’s nutritional needs are different, but overall there are some basic healthy guidelines to follow:
Whole Grains/Healthy Carbs – Switch from white breads/pasta/white rice to healthier alternatives. In addition to being satisfying and delicious, whole grains are rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals, which can help to protect against coronary heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes. Choose whole grain breads, rolls, pasta, brown/wild rice and other sources of whole grains like oatmeal, cream of wheat and whole grain cereals. Check labels and watch for words like multi-grain, 100% wheat, or bran as they can be deceiving. Rather, look for the words Whole Grain or 100% Whole Wheat on the ingredient list. You can also look for the Whole Grain Stamp that distinguishes between partial whole grain and 100% whole grain in products.
Fruits and Vegetables – Fruits and vegetables are the foundation of a healthy nutritional plan. They are low in calories and nutrient dense, which means they are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Seek out fruits and vegetables that you like and make it your goal to add more of them into your diet. The more colorful range of fruits and vegetables you eat the better. Every meal should have at least 1 fruit or vegetable serving with it, more of course would be better, a goal of at least 5 servings per day is best.
Lean Proteins – Protein provides your body with energy and helps the body grow, maintain cells, tissues, and organs. Some excellent sources of lean proteins include chicken or turkey, lean beef (ground beef with less than 7% fat), fish and shellfish, nuts and legumes, eggs, low fat cheeses, low fat or non-fat milk and meat substitutes (tofu, vegetarian burgers) just to name some options. You will want to avoid processed meats, canned fish/shellfish that is pack in oil and meats or fish with breading or added fat and focus on eating lean proteins.
Healthy Fats – Healthy fats are found in foods like fruits, veggies, fish, eggs, nuts and natural peanut butter or almond butter, and canola/soybean/olive oils. You’ll want to eat healthy fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated and avoid or minimize trans fats and saturated fats. Make sure you don’t avoid fat completely, even if you are trying to lose weight, as healthy fats are vital to many of the body’s primary functions, like digestion and nutrient absorption.
Water – Drink it! Water is an important and necessary part of any healthy nutritional plan. It flushes our systems of toxins and waste products, plus it helps prevents dehydration (which can cause tiredness, low energy, and headaches). Unsweetened natural fruit juices, teas, low fat or non-fat milk, some protein shakes are also good beverages. Make sure to limit beverages that do not have nutritional value or contain high amounts of caffeine or sugar, like soda/diet soda, coffee or alcoholic beverages, some smoothies. Personally, I also drink one ultra-premium Shakeology nutritional shake everyday that contains over 70 nutrients and consider it to be an essential part of my nutritional plan. If you would like more information on this, please feel free to email me at my email address below.
Sweets & Treats – Limit the amount sweets and treats you intake. A general rule that I follow and suggest to others is the 90/10 rule. 90% of what you put in your body should be healthy, clean food, unprocessed foods, leaving 10% or less for the “unhealthy” category. I believe that an occasional treat like a cookie, brownie, and piece of cake on a family member’s birthday is fine, as long as you keep to the 10% rule. We are human after all and if you ban foods, it is natural to want those foods more, and then feel guilty if you give in to temptation. The 90/10 rules helps solve these problems. If you tend to crave foods that are sweet, salty, or unhealthy, start by reducing portion sizes to one small snack a day and/or not eating them as often. Down the line you may find yourself craving them less or view them as only occasional indulgences.
Pitfalls and Tips – Just as important as what you fuel your body with, is how much of the fuel you give it. Pay close attention to portion sizes, as taking in more than your body needs is a common pitfall, but depending on your personal goals (become healthier, weight loss, athletic performance) you will want to find the right balance for your caloric intake vs. your physical output (the calories you burn). How much fuel is right for you? The answer is unique for each person, please feel free to email me and we can use a calorie calculator to figure out what is right for you. I also recommend keeping a food journal and writing down what you eat everyday. Watch for more information on food journaling to come in a future article. As we head into the holiday season another pitfall is parties and social events, where unhealthy goodies are plentiful. I have two tips for this pitfall; first eat a light healthy meal before you head to the party/event. Second if you are asked to bring a dish to pass, bring something healthy that you like, then you know there will be at least one option there that you can enjoy.
There are no amazing nutrition secrets revealed in this article, just simple healthy guidelines to start following. Hopefully these guidelines can help you to commit to a healthier you!